Rated of 5
by Judy (Marysville OH)
Imagining what-if and a poet's eye
This book will stay with me for a long time. It's beautifully written and emotionally powerful. Set in a remote and mystically beautiful landscape removed from the immediate physical horrors of war, Sheers reveals the inevitable human pain, loss, and moral lose/lose dilemmas that descend even on the most isolated people.
This alternative history story is based on the author's fascination with what he learned from a real-life participant in the British resistance organization about the secret plans for fighting against a German invasion. The story takes place from Fall of 1944, when Germany has invaded the south of England, to mid-1945, when London and most of the country have been overtaken, though there is no official British surrender.
Six women living on the only farms in a remote valley in Wales are suffering from the desertion of their men who have all secretly and silently disappeared in the night to participate, the women decide, in the British resistance organization planned in 1940. When six German Wehrmacht soldiers on a mysterious mission arrive and take up residence in the valley, a tense, anxious dance begins between the soldiers and the women, who draw together and shrink apart, until the reality of the war invades the valley and shatters the uneasy dance in surprising and heartbreaking ways.
The landscape of this human drama is echoed in the universal, elemental balance between the land and the people it sustains. Owen Sheers' poet's eye gives a striking view of this landscape. For a small example, who can resist this word picture describing two of the characters walking together "... disturb[ing] skylarks from their nests and ... watch[ing] as the startled birds ascended above them, disappearing up the threads of their song."
For me, this book matches the power and depth of Pat Barker's World War I trilogy--Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, and The Ghost Road--though it's very different.